Saratoga community responding to local diagnosis of COVID variant

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SARATOGA COUNTY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo broke the news that a case of the COVID-19 variant first identified in the U.K.—”B117″—was confirmed in Saratoga County.

The variant-positive individual was identified at a local jewelry shop, N. Fox Jewelers. They posted a statement online:

N. Fox Jewelers was notified by State health officials late Monday that they detected a case of the Covid-19 UK strain in somebody associated with the retail store. Out of an abundance of caution before receiving any information regarding the UK strain, and not at the direction of the NYS Health Department, the store elected to close from December 23 – January 3rd. NYS Department of Health has confirmed that all N. Fox Jewelers staff have subsequently tested negative and that no staff is contagious at the time of this release. “N Fox Jewelers takes the health and safety of our staff and patrons very seriously and we are working closely with State Health Officials on contract tracing, as well as operating guidelines given recent developments,” says an N. Fox spokesperson.

N. Fox Jewelers is voluntarily extending its store closure until further information can be provided by State and County Health Officials. We will continue to update this message as we receive information. The store’s owners urge anyone who visited N. Fox Jewelers between December 18 and December 23rd to be tested.

Testing starts in Saratoga Springs Tuesday, and three other individuals have also tested positive after being exposed. New York public health officials haven’t clearly communicated whether they’re also infected with the “U.K. strain.”

Cuomo said the strain is 70% more contagious than the original COVID-19 strain, making contact tracing critical to getting the spread under control. State officials want anyone who visited N. Fox Jewelers from December 18 to 24 to get tested.

Still, city officials are criticizing how the governor is handling this case. “If we don’t know what’s going on, that impacts our ability to provide that trust in our community,” said Tara Gaston, Saratoga Springs Supervisor. One employee told NEWS10 that it wasn’t until the governor made the announcement that she knew about a possible exposure.

In response to the news of the variant being found in Saratoga Springs, Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber released a statement saying while the city is doing everything they can, the local vaccination effort must be more robust. “If we are going to put health first, we need to get more vaccinations into the arms of more people. We need a local vaccination site in Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County,” reads his statement, in part.

If you are eligible to be vaccinated, the closest locations include: the Albany Medical Center, in Albany; Ellis Hospital, in Schenectady; and Hudson Headwaters Health Center, in Moreau.

The week’s testing schedule at Saratoga State Park in Saratoga Springs—where testing is free for anyone who visited the store from December 18 to 24—is below:

Tuesday1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Wednesday10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Thursday10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Friday10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The governor says the infected person has not traveled, and this might mean that the strain is already in the community. There’s no evidence yet that the new strain isn’t affected by vaccines, or that it is more dangerous for people who are infected.

Officials from Saratoga County Public Health Services are hosted a Facebook Live event Tuesday afternoon. Dr. Mike McEvoy, the county’s EMS coordinator, was be on-hand to address current numbers, vaccine plans, and the U.K. strain:

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